Screentime – How Much is Too Much For Children?
Children’s screen time. Are we educating our kids with useful information? Or are we just frying their brain cells? It’s a topic that is debated by pretty much everyone.
Parents, professionals, non-parents who think they are professionals. Literally everyone has an opinion on how much screen time children should have. You won’t find a definitive answer though, it all comes down to personal preference. I decided to do some research into the topic to find out what other parents think, and to give an insight into my own views on children’s screen time.
The reason that I decided to look into this topic came from a new study from the World Health Organisation. This study brought out new findings that say that children under the age of 3 should not watch TV or sit playing games on the tablet. So according to these findings, we are all pretty screwed. Children aged 3 and 4 should be having no more than an hour. I often feel like the people who carry out this research are not parents themselves. They don’t take into account the struggles that parent’s face on a daily basis. Sometimes the only way to have a five minute break from your children is to put them in front of a screen. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve all done it before.
The research does focus more on children’s obesity levels and sleep problems rather than the amount of screen time. Surely there can be routines in place for children that allow them to exercise and be active, but to have down time watching TV and unwinding on a tablet for short periods. Sometimes children just need a break. To switch their minds off for an hour.
Screen time doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. There’s plenty of educational programmes that children can watch which will help them develop. Programmes that teach them numbers like the Numberblocks. There are programmes on Cbeebies that teach children about different animals and dinosaurs. There are shows that I’ve watched with Austin where I’ve actually learnt something new myself.
Austin’s Screen Time
Here’s a little insight into our daily routine. I’ve never had a problem with Austin watching a bit of TV. He is 20 months old now, and currently in the most precious time of his growing life. Everything that he hears, he soaks up like a sponge. He is learning so quickly, and his vocabulary is increasing daily. On a day at home with him, I will admit that the first thing we do is turn on Cbeebies so that I can go into the kitchen to make him a bottle. Some of his favourite shows are on first thing in the morning, and I have no issues with him chilling on the sofa whilst he has his morning bottle. It gives me time to put the dishes away, put clothes into the washing machine and make myself a brew.
One rule that I do live by, is that meals will be eaten in the dining room at the table, away from the TV. I always try to avoid using my phone whilst I’m watching him, so that he knows that screens are not for the dinner table. I’m definitely not one for allowing him to watch a tablet whilst he eats. It’s a time for talking to each other (or babbling) and for him to concentrate on what he is doing. The TV will usually be on throughout the morning, but only as background noise. I’ll always encourage him to play with his toys rather than sitting down staring at a screen. There are particular programmes that he will stop and watch, but I have no problem with that.
As part of Austin’s bedtime routine, we do watch the last few shows on Cbeebies before his bedtime. These shows are relaxing and are great for winding down after a hectic day. There’s so much research into children using technology before bed and the sleep problems that it could potentially have. I have found the complete opposite with Austin. He goes to sleep by himself within 10 minutes of being put into his cot, every single night without fail. Maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones, but TV before bed has never been an issue for us.
Days that Austin goes to nursery are often screen free days. This isn’t intentional, but my long shifts mean that by the time we get home, it’s time for bed. He spends these days on the go, interacting with different children and adults, which is why I do not feel any guilt for allowing him to watch some TV on my days off with him.
Tips for Regulating Screen Time
Here are some tips about regulating screen time that I try my best to live by.
- Limit screen time to certain times of the day – Try to establish a routine with your child that means that they are only engaging with TV/computers at a particular time of day. For example, a small amount first thing in the morning, and a little before bed to wind down.
- Lead by example – You can’t expect your child to give up the screens, if you aren’t prepared to do the same. I’ve created an environment for Austin to eat his meals that is away from the TV, so I try my best not to bring my phone to the table too. Children learn by example, so what they see you do, they will do too.
- Give children options – There is nothing wrong with children watching TV. They can learn so much from it! However, rather than just turning on the TV and leaving them to it, provide alternatives so that they can choose their activity. Having some toys out on the floor, or some paper to draw on, can allow them to be distracted from the screens without any sort of intervention.
Parent’s of Twitter
I put this debate out to the Twitter parenting community to see what other parent’s views were. The results were fairly mixed, with some parents being quite strict on the amount of screen time their children watch, and others more relaxed.
“On a day at home we probably have more than an hour. Hope for it not to be as much as 2 but broken up throughout the day. Getting dressed can sometimes only be achieved through Bing hypnosis, a little at lunch, half an hour at least whilst I cook tea”.
“I work from home, so I must admit the TV can be a babysitter. But then equally there are days when we’re out all day with no screen time at all. Balance. Like everything else”.
The Dyspraxia Daddy @DyspraxiaDaddy
“Let’s face it – screen time (if used correctly) can be a godsend. It may be frowned upon but I don’t think it’s realistic to deny our kids ANY screen time at all. Let’s give ourselves a break”.
“My nearly 2 year old has no screen time yet. She loves role play and books so if I need time for myself she tends to just crack on with something herself”.
This is a parenting debate that is going to rubble on for decades to come. With the advancements in technology, the amount of screen time that children are exposed to is going to become harder and harder to regulate. I believe that children can learn so much from screen time, if it is used in the right way. A healthy mix of screens and physical play can combine to develop a child in a positive way.
If you have any thoughts on the topic of children’s screen time then feel free to leave them in the comments section.